Matt Erickson’s Top 100 Songs 65 – 61

July 29, 2010

65. Head East Never Been Any Reason Never

’70s hangover raunch rock meets flowing-robes-and-lasers keyboard wanking. Imagine if Rick Wakeman joined Humble Pie. Then they wrote a song about a woman with “sweet lovin’” better than cocaine. It shouldn’t just not work – it should be a disaster – but thanks to a cowbell, near-”Born to Run“-level energy, and a hall of fame chorus (it’s the one that goes, “save my life / I’m goin’ down for the last time!”), it’s the 1975 anthem that is satisfyingly of-its-time. Plus, I think everyone in the band gets a turn singing. I don’t know much about Head East, other than that they should defeat Go West in the first round of the greatest one-hit-wonders bracket. Anyone heard the rest of the album? From Flat as a Pancake (1975). (Downloads from 20th Century Masters: The Millennium Collection: Best Of Head East)

64. The Chameleons UK Second Skin Second says it’s “widely touted as ‘the best song Julian Cope never wrote.’” While that isn’t true (it’s actually the 64th best song he never wrote), it is better than anything he did write. And while his band quickly imploded, The Chameleons would go on to become the best band there ever was. From Script of the Bridge (1983).

63. Big Star The Ballad of El Goodo The

I bought this because the critics told me to, and at first I thought they were overrated except for this song (which also made me fear I’d bought a Christian rock record). Then over the next two months, 19 of the 24 songs on #1 Record/Radio City took turns being my favorite (pretty and slightly off-kilter 3-minute pop songs, sung with stomachfuls of regret, thoroughly ignored by FM radio, who was busy playing BTO). Then I bought Third/Sister Lovers and began to prefer that album’s shattered beauty. But nowadays, this is the one I want to hear most of all. Put it on a mix following a dark & stormy song, then just listen to the first ringing guitar chords cut through the silent wake. So I did have it right the first time. From #1 Record (1972).

62. Guns ‘n’ Roses November Rain November

I just re-watched the video and the death of Axl’s wife remains unsolved (although I like Wayne Campbell’s plea for a sequel to the video, “December Slush,” where Axl’s wife gets crushed by a huge hail nugget). Personally, I think Kurt Cobain did it. In retrospect, this song was the last grand statement of hair-rock, the monster ballad that mourns the end of monster ballads. I remember when I woke up one morning in 1991 and everything on rock radio sounded different, and what was cool was something completely new, and what had been cool the day before suddenly became the furthest thing from cool. “November Rain” is that era’s epitaph – what “All Apologies” would be just three years later. From Use Your Illusion I (1991).

61. Queensryche Silent Lucidity Silent

OK, don’t laugh at the title before hearing the song, like some certain friend of mine. This is dead serious: the song includes robot-narrated instructions for lucid dreaming:

“[Visualize your dream]
[Record it in the present tense]
[Put it into a permanent form]
[If you persist in your efforts]
[You can achieve dream control]“

I tried this for a week in 2008. Of course, I didn’t have a job. Writing down your dreams takes 45 minutes or more, and you have to do it right when you wake up or it quickly evaporates. Once you start to remember it, you realize how many details you remember, and it gets out of hand. Queensryche probably has the luxury of doing this; they start work at 11:00 at night. On the other hand, I soon got a job, which made me forget my dreams.

By the way this song is one of the best CD-mix-closers ever. If “November Rain” is the “Stairway to Heaven” of ’80s hair rock, this is its “Comfortably Numb.” From Empire (1990).

Honorable Mention:
Big Star Kangaroo

The other, later Big Star, when Alex Chilton wrote some great pop songs then smashed them to pieces. This is the post-industrial wreckage of their old love songs, a misshapen bag-o’-glass and guitar strings, with caterwauling shards of melody spinning out like shrapnel, refracted through a smoggy haze that slowly pulls itself forward like a post-leg-amputation Terminator. It’s fucking beautiful. From Third/Sister Lovers (1975).

List so far ~

100. Elton John ~ Funeral for a Friend
99. Dave Schramm ~ Hammer and Nails
98. The Bob Seger System ~ 2 + 2 = ?
97. The Young Generation ~ The Hideaway
96. Le Pastie de la Bourgeoisie ~ Belle and Sebastian
95. The Cars ~ Drive
94. Moose ~ The Only Man in Town
93. Wire ~ French Film Blurred
92. King Crimson ~ Starless
91. The Only Ones ~ The Whole of the Law
90. Daniel Johnston ~ Grievances
89. The Rolling Stones ~ Rocks Off
88. Wipers ~ Youth of America
87. Heart ~ Alone
86. The Stone Roses ~ Sugar Spun Sister
85. Joe Pernice ~ Bum Leg
84. My Bloody Valentine ~ To Here Knows When
83. Gene Clark ~ Some Misunderstanding
82. Electric Light Orchestra ~ Can’t Get it Out of my Head
81. Ride ~ Vapour Trail
80. Rush ~ 2112
79. Pere Ubu ~ Final Solution
78. Gary Wright ~ Dream Weaver
77. John Hiatt ~ Cry Love
76. The Go-Betweens ~ Clouds
75. Asia ~ Only Time Will Tell
74. The House of Love ~ Man to Child
73. Talk Talk ~ After the Flood
72. Seal ~ Prayer for the Dying
71. Brian Eno ~ Spider and I
70. Red House Painters ~ Mistress
69. Boy Meets Girl ~ Waiting for a Star to Fall
68. Metallica ~ Fade to Black
67. Chris Bell ~ Speed of Sound
66. The Soft Boys ~ Queen of Eyes
65. Head East ~ Never Been Any Reason
64. The Chameleons UK ~ Second Skin
63. Big Star ~ The Ballad of El Goodo
62. Guns ‘n’ Roses ~ November Rain
61. Queensryche ~ Silent Lucidity

Honorable Mentions
Laura Cantrell ~ Hammer and Nails
King Missile ~ Sensitive Artist
Eric Carmen ~ Make Me Lose Control
Bone Thugs-n-Harmony ~ Tha Crossroads
Coldplay ~ Speed of Sound
Big Star ~ Kangaroo

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6 Responses to “ Matt Erickson’s Top 100 Songs 65 – 61 ”

  1. Dude McBrah on July 30, 2010 at 10:03 am

    That Head East song is so good. A nasty riff, cowbell, two lead singers on each verse (including a singing drummer), about 12 synth solos… it really doesn’t get any better.

  2. Kiren Valjee on July 30, 2010 at 1:04 pm

    Ha! Silent Lucidity was one of the first songs I learned how to play on my guitar in college. It’s the song I would play with my dorm room door open and hope some dreamy co-ed dressed in black would walk in through the smoke machine fog I had installed and say her name was Lucidity.

  3. Matt Erickson on August 4, 2010 at 2:31 pm

    Kiren, Dude,
    Way to appreciate good – and somewhat forgotten – music, even though your captions – particularly the bit about Ms. Lucidity – may outshine my own.

  4. carol on August 10, 2010 at 2:40 am

    the silent lucidity description is amazing, from start to finish. also, i will probably find the title of that song (and many of the lyrics) delightfully hilarious forever.

  5. Rolando Rybacki on August 12, 2010 at 6:01 am

    The death of Kurt does even now hurt so much and his music is nonetheless contemporary. He could have written so numerous great melodies, if he had not been sick. But here is clear: genius and madness are near together. 1 may possibly say if he had not been so ill, he would not have been completely so great. I miss him nonetheless.

  6. Matt Erickson on August 13, 2010 at 10:00 am

    Word, Rolando.

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